ACC: Ron Brace

It’s time to reload in the ACC. Here’s a look at the position needs for each team in the Atlantic Division for the 2011 signing class:


Offensive linemen: Six players on the final two-deep roster for 2010 were either juniors or seniors, and the Eagles will have to find replacements for Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham and Thomas Claiborne. There were two juniors at center in 2011, and the recruiting overall at this position hasn’t been as strong in recent years.

Defensive linemen: The Eagles have been thin at the position to begin with since the departures of Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. The interior line should be a priority, as tackle Damik Scafe will graduate, and Kaleb Ramsey will be a senior. Defensive end Brad Newman will also graduate.


[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesReplacing Da'Quan Bowers is a top priority for Clemson.
Defensive line: The early departure of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and the loss of Jarvis Jenkins makes this group a priority. Seven of the eight players up front on the final two-deep roster were either juniors or seniors.

Quarterback: Prior to the early enrollees, Clemson only had one scholarship quarterback on the roster -- projected starter Tajh Boyd. The depth needs to be rebuilt after the loss of starter Kyle Parker and transfer of backup Willy Korn.

Running back: The early departure of Jamie Harper to the NFL left a hole in the Tigers’ lineup. It’s not completely empty, as Andre Ellington remains the best back on the roster and Roderick McDowell was a redshirt freshman backup to Harper.


Offensive lineman – The departures of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon will leave gaping holes up front, and A.J. Ganguzza and Antwane Greenlee aren’t expected to return. Overall, the staff is looking for bigger, better players. With the exception of right guard, this was a veteran group.

Running back: Despite the current depth, the coaching staff still wanted to sign about three more running backs in this class.

Wide receiver: This would be the third priority for the staff. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling will both be seniors, but the team has lacked some dynamic playmakers at the position.

Linebacker: The Noles lost two starters from last year’s Atlantic Division championship team, and there are several young players on the rise like Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith, but the staff wants more numbers at the position.

Safety: The Noles need an upgrade at this position.

Defensive line: This is a matter of mostly building depth and size and continuing to get better.


Kicker/ Punter: Nick Ferrara has the ability to do both, but he also struggled at both in 2010. Travis Baltz was a four-year starter at punter who has to be replaced. The kicking game should be a top priority in this class, and a concern if Ferrara doesn’t become more consistent.

Wide receiver: The early departure of standout Torrey Smith to the NFL leaves quarterback Danny O'Brien without a favorite target. Seven of the nine receivers listed on the most current depth chart for 2010 were either juniors or seniors.

Running back: The Terps have to replace starter Da’Rel Scott, and Davin Meggett will be a senior. There is some talent behind Meggett in D.J. Adams, but the position could use more depth.

Secondary: Six of the top 10 players in the secondary were either juniors or seniors in 2010, including safety Antwine Perez, who will graduate. Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism will both be seniors, and the corner position is the biggest need.

Defensive end: Defensive coordinator Don Brown would like to bring in at least one player who can really bring some speed off the edge.


Kickers: The Wolfpack lost their starting punter and place-kicker, easily making kickers the biggest need in this recruiting class.

Defensive linemen: With the exception of sophomore Brian Slay, the entire 2010 line was comprised of juniors and seniors. The Pack have to replace two starters, and two returning starters, Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy, will be seniors.

Linebackers: This was another veteran group for NC State, with five of the six players on the two-deep either juniors or seniors. Nate Irving’s graduation will be a big hit and Audie Cole will be a senior.

Quarterback: If Russell Wilson leaves early, the position will be even thinner, but backup Mike Glennon will be a junior, so the staff needs to build more depth.


Offensive linemen: The Deacs will have four redshirt juniors returning up front, and have to replace redshirt senior center Russell Nenon. The staff is looking to increase the depth and talent up front.

Linebackers: The position hasn’t been the same since the 2008 class (Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux). They were both drafted and two of the fastest players the program has ever seen. The staff needs to bring in more talent and speed here.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 4, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Summer camp is officially underway in the ACC, and it started with NC State and Georgia Tech: 

  • Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was mostly pleased with the Jackets' first practice, but the quarterbacks reportedly looked a little shaky. One player who couldn't have been happier to be on the field was cornerback Jerrard Tarrant, who was suspended last year.
  • Not only did NC State's practice get cut short yesterday, but so did its secondary.
  • Clemson starts practice today, and there are five storylines worth watching, namely the quarterback competition.
  • The amount of change Miami offensive lineman Jason Fox has seen during his college career is amazing, but he's been the one constant in the program.
  • Fox isn't the only consistent linemen in the ACC. FSU's Rodney Hudson loves football, and he gets it.
  • UNC defensive end E.J. Wilson says the Tar Heels can contend for the ACC title this year.
  • Former BC defensive tackle Ron Brace is feeling right at home with the Patriots.
  • The Virginian-Pilot just launched a recruiting site covering "757" talent. It includes free analysis, stats and video on the top-20 prospects in the Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake areas.

Ranking the ACC units: Defensive lines

July, 20, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

1. Clemson -- The Tigers return three starters up front, and first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's pressure defense is the perfect fit for guys like Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp. Sapp was having a good season last year before he tore his ACL at Virginia and missed the rest of the season. Defensive end Kevin Alexander is a returning starter who had 34 tackles last year, and nose guard Jarvis Jenkins tied Sapp for the team lead with 10 tackles for loss. Opposing quarterbacks won't have time to think against this bunch.

2. Miami -- Anyone watching the Virginia Tech game last year saw what this group is capable of, and of the nine linemen who started at least one game for Miami last year, seven are back. Allen Bailey has moved from end to tackle, but he sometimes played there in third-down situations. He led the team with five sacks. Marcus Robinson is a solid pass rusher, Marcus Forston could also be an impact and Eric Moncur is entering his sixth season and if he plays like he did in 2007 (11.5 tackles for loss) could really give this line a boost.

3. Virginia Tech -- Depth is the only question mark here, as Jason Worilds, John Graves, Cordarrow Thompson and Nekos Brown are more than capable of continuing Bud Foster's tradition of nationally ranked defenses. Nobody is questioning Worilds' toughness, that's for sure, and Graves and Thompson both started every game last year. They're still looking for another defensive end, though, and will keep an eye on what Chris Drager adds to the position after moving from tight end.

4. North Carolina -- Not only do all four starters return, but the depth is the best it's been in recent years. Last year, defensive end Robert Quinn became a starter in the second game of the season, and defensive tackle Cam Thomas had one of his his best season at UNC. Marvin Austin and E.J. Wilson played well, and should be even better this year. Reserves Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo had solid rookie seasons and will push Wilson and Quinn for playing time this year. Aleric Mullins and Tydreke Powell are interchangeable with Austin and Thomas as starters at tackle.

5. Florida State -- The end position is reason for concern, as the Noles have to replace both Everette Brown and Neefy Moffett, who were first and second, respectively, on the team in sacks. Markus White will be tasked with filling the shoes of Brown, but he had a good transition season from junior college last year to build off of. Kevin McNeil, who had four sacks last year, is the favorite to replace Moffett. The interior should be solid with the return of Budd Thacker, Kendrick Stewart, Moses McCray and Justin Mincey.

6. NC State -- Defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash and end Willie Young have combined for 46 starts and should be two of the best linemen in the conference. The other two players penciled in as starters -- Shea McKeen and Leroy Burgess -- were both junior college transfers who earned starting time last year. Backup tackles will be a concern, but Markus Kuhn could wind up playing a bit of both until the staff decides where he can help the most.

7. Wake Forest -- Tackles John Russell and Boo Robinson will highlight a defense that recently bid farewell to some of the best seniors to come through the program. It should be one of the Deacs' most experienced groups in recent years, which is important considering the new faces behind them at linebacker. Defensive end Kyle Wilbur showed a lot of promise as a redshirt freshman with three sacks in only seven starts, and Tristan Dorty played in 10 games as a redshirt defensive end last year.

8. Virginia -- It's one of the few units on this team that didn't get a complete makeover, as seven of the top eight linemen return. Sophomore Matt Conrath, who had 35 tackles and four sacks last year, returns at end. There's a lot of experience next to him at nose tackle, where senior Nate Collins and sophomore Nick Jenkins split time last season. Collins' 35 tackles are the top among the returning linemen, while Jenkins finished with 25. Junior John-Kevin Dolce proved himself in the pass rush package with five sacks among his nine total tackles last year.

9. Boston College -- Replacing tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace is obviously one of the biggest concerns for this team, but they've got several options. Damik Scafe, Nick Rossi and Brendan Deska were each second-stringers at the tackle position and are the early favorites to replace the NFL draft picks. The Eagles also signed a pair of defensive tackles in the offseason, including highly touted recruit Dillon Quinn, who could make an immediate impact. Austin Giles replaced the injured Alex Albright last year for 12 starts, and Jim Ramella started all 14 games at the other end position.

10. Georgia Tech -- The Yellow Jackets have to replace three of four starters up front, and until they prove they found dependable replacements, they're going to be stuck down here. The lone returning starter is junior end Derrick Morgan, and there's no doubt about his capabilities, but the Jackets will sorely miss the three starters who combined for 100 career starts and 100 tackles for loss. Ben Anderson, Robert Hall and T.J. Barnes are all candidates to start.

11. Duke -- The Blue Devils took a step forward last year and should improve again with the return of tackle Vince Oghobaase and end Ayanga Okpokwuruk, who started five games and had 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. They combined for 9.5 sacks last year. Oghobaase ranks second in the ACC in both career tackles for loss (29.0) and quarterback sacks (11.5). They'll need new starters at nose guard and right end.

12. Maryland -- The Terps have to fill a void left by Jeremy Navarre and Trey Covington, and so far it looks like that will be up to Derek Drummond, Dion Armstrong, Travis Ivey and Jared Harrell, though Armstrong was dealing with some academic issues. The arrival of De'Onte Arnett, Zachariah Kerr, and Cody Blue this past spring should help with the depth.

Preseason predictions: Boston College

July, 14, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

It wouldn't be July without a few predictions about what this fall will hold for ACC football. This week I'll start to make three predictions for each team and we'll see how they shake out come November. I'll save the actual game predictions for in-season, and make these more of a team overview.

We'll start with the Eagles:


1. Dave Shinskie will be a better quarterback than people think. Who? You'll get to know the 25-year-old signal-caller very soon. Shinskie spent the past six years playing minor league baseball and has yet to throw a collegiate pass, but Frank Spaziani wouldn't have taken a chance on him if he didn't show some potential. That doesn't mean he'll be the next Matt Ryan. Maybe more along the lines of a Chris Crane. As long as he can manage the game without turning it over, this offense stands a chance.

2. The Eagles' running game will flourish behind one of the best offensive lines in the conference. This will also help take some pressure off of Shinskie. Don't forget the Eagles have sophomores Montel Harris and Josh Haden in their backfield. The two combined for 106 yards per game, which was the second-best true freshman total in the country. Harris was the most productive true freshman tailback in school history with a rookie-record five 100-yard rushing performances and 900 total. Both will benefit tremendously from last year's experience and earn some attention despite the plethora of talented backs in the ACC this year.

3. The losses up front and in the linebacking corps will be too much to overcome. The Eagles have to replace hulking tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, which won't be easy. And it will be simply impossible to replace the skill and leadership of linebacker Mark Herzlich, the top defensive player in the ACC. BC's defenses have been stellar in the past -- last year the Eagles ranked fifth nationally in total defense and seventh in rushing defense -- but this should be a year it bends. No doubt the strength will be the secondary.

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 26, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

It's the last weekend in June, which means we're much closer to the start of camp. Kind of. Sort of.

As always, the links to hold you over ... 

  • Duke recruit Desmond Scott has hired a personal trainer to help him break into the starting lineup this fall, because he knows nothing will be handed to him.
  • Florida State, on the other hand, just found out its second recruit from the class of 2009 doesn't have the test scores to enroll right now.
  • And another quarterback just backed away from BC.
  • Former BC defensive tackle Ron Brace grew up in the New England area, but had never been to a Patriots game. Now, he's playing for Bill Belichick.
  • If first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple doesn't inject some life into Miami's offense, writes Matt Hinton, then the "alleged sins of the Coker era won't seem nearly as close in the rearview."

Hope and concern series: Boston College

June, 18, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

There's always reason for hope -- your team has the best quarterback in the league, it's got a favorable schedule, a great coach, or the defense returns almost everyone. But there's also always a few reasons for concern. I'm stealing an idea from my colleague, Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg, and will go through each team in the ACC's biggest reasons for hope and concern in 2009. Let's start in Chestnut Hill:


Biggest reason for hope -- The running game

Four starters return on the offensive line, which should be one of the best in the ACC, and they'll pave the way for two up-and-coming running backs in Josh Haden and Montel Harris. The two combined for 106 yards per game, which was the second-best true freshmen total in the country. Harris, who wasn't offered a scholarship until two weeks before signing day, set a BC freshmen rushing record with 900 yards to finish 5th in the ACC. It was the 14th-best single-season effort by a freshman in ACC history. Haden started 13 games at tailback and rushed for 479 yards (4 ypc). He also caught 13 passes for 100 yards. The duo will have its chance in the spotlight this year, as Haden and Harris will be needed to take some pressure off of whoever becomes the new quarterback.

Biggest reason for concern -- Missing stars

There is no Matt Ryan, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace have moved on, and there likely won't be any Mark Herzlich. Those within the program aren't even sure when standout linebacker Mike McLaughlin will return from a ruptured Achilles. And everyone will be under the direction of a first-year head coach. It's going to be a team effort in the truest sense of the phrase, but somebody will have to emerge as a leader and a player the Eagles can depend upon in the clutch. Can 25-year-old Dave Shinskie, who hasn't thrown a collegiate pass let alone a football in six years be the face of Boston College football this fall? He might not have a choice.

Spaz vs. Swinney

May, 22, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

There are two new coaches in the ACC this season, and both of them happen to be in the Atlantic Division. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani took over for Jeff Jagodzinski, and Dabo Swinney took over for Tommy Bowden in the middle of last season.

Which one will have the most success first? Here's a look at what each of them brings to the table:

  Robert E. Klein/Icon SMI
  Frank Spaziani takes over a team in the midst of an offensive transition.

Name: Frank Spaziani
Record at BC: 1-0, first season
Overall: 1-0 (Spaziani was credited with BC's 25-24 win over Navy in the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl while serving as interim head coach following the departure of Tom O'Brien.)
Years at Boston College: 13
Previous position: Defensive coordinator
Head-coaching experience: One game as an interim head coach.
Returning players: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist

What he brings: Spaziani's best attributes are his down-to-earth, humble personality and ability to get the most out of his players, but he's also a very smart defensive-minded coach with a plan for the future of Boston College football. He also brings a loyalty to the program, and a guarantee that he's going to stick around. That's something he can convey to recruits, and so far it seems to be working. Spaziani has been on staff for teams that have collectively reached 20 bowl games, so he knows what it takes to get there and his nationally ranked defenses have helped BC do it.

Challenges he faces: Boston College is in the midst of a system change on offense, and is going through it without a dependable leader at quarterback. He also is tasked with keeping the team together and focused in the wake of the news that star linebacker Mark Herzlich has been diagnosed with cancer. The defense also has to replace hulking tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, and it's uncertain how long linebacker Mike McLaughlin will be out with a ruptured Achilles.

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Despite the coaching staff change and several glaring question marks, the Eagles aren't starting from scratch. They've got an extremely talented offensive line, and talented running backs in Josh Haden and Montel Harris who can help take some pressure off of the new quarterback. They've also got a deep, experienced secondary and a few veteran leaders to help carry the team in Herzlich's absence. So the pieces are there to keep Boston College competitive, it's just a question of how long into the season it will take before everything clicks.

Early prediction: 5-7, 2-6 ACC

  Marvin Gentry/US PRESSWIRE
  Dabo Swinney was 4-3 as interim head coach following Tommy Bowden's resignation.

Name: Dabo Swinney
Record at Clemson: 4-3
Overall: 4-3
Years at Clemson: 6
Previous position: Wide receivers coach/assistant head coach
Head-coaching experience: Swinney was interim head coach from Oct. 13 through Dec. 1, 2008. He has been head coach since Dec. 1, 2008.
Returning players: Offense 7, defense 8

What he brings: Swinney is a salesman, and he's sold everyone in and around the program on his "all in" motto. He started the "Tiger Walk," for his first game as head coach, and his second week, he invited the Clemson students to practice and nearly 1,000 showed up. In his first road game as head coach, Swinney led the Tigers to their first win at Boston College since 1958. He's a top-notch recruiter with a lot of energy, and had the good sense to surround himself with veteran assistants who have been around a little SEC ball. He's young, confident and not afraid to make changes.

Challenges he faces: The biggest challenge is the same one his predecessor faced -- expectations. The 80,000 fans who pack Death Valley on Saturdays are still waiting for the program's first ACC title since 1991. Swinney, like athletic director Terry Don Phillips, took a chance on a young coach when he hired Billy Napier, formerly the tight ends coach, as his offensive coordinator. Swinney will turn 40 in November and Napier turns 30 in July. Together, this will be their first full season calling plays and running the offense. And right now, they haven't decided on a quarterback to lead it.

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Most coaches will look at Clemson's roster and, considering the talent returning, tell you there's no good reason why the Tigers' shouldn't have a winning record. Jacoby Ford, C.J. Spiller, a much improved offensive line and one scary defense make this a possible sleeper team. But they've got to settle on a quarterback and find some receivers to help out Ford.

Early prediction: 7-5, 4-4 ACC

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 5, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Around the ACC we go ...

Pro Days update

March, 12, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Boston College will have its NFL Pro Day today, and obviously B.J. Raji, Ron Brace and Ryan Purvis will be among the seniors of note there. (They'll also be among the ACC's biggest shoes to fill in '09). Not all schools release their pro day highlights, but if they do, they'll be posted.

Maryland had its Pro Day on Wednesday, and it was reflective of just how many seniors the Terps will have to replace this year. Maryland lost more starters (13) from last year's roster than anyone else in the ACC.

About 40 representatives from 25 NFL teams were on campus yesterday. Twenty of the 24 players auditioning were starters, and Kevin Barnes, Moise Fokou, Dan Gronkowski, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jaimie Thomas and Edwin Williams had already been to the NFL combine in Indy.

Heyward-Bey and Gronkowski were among the most impressive players at their positions at the NFL combine. Heyward-Bey ran a time of 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, the top time among wide receivers, while Gronkowski had the third-best performance (26 reps) among tight ends in the bench press and the second-best mark (11.72) in the 60-yard shuttle. They only participated in individual drills on Wednesday.

Here were the highlights from Wednesday in College Park:

  • Receiver Isaiah Williams posted the top time in the 40-yard dash (4.38) and 60-yard shuttle (11.10). He also had the third-best time (4.24) in the 20-yard shuttle and matched Barnes for the top vertical jump (41 inches).
  • Running back Rashad Henry had the top time (4.11) in the 20-yard shuttle and defensive back Jeff Allen posted the second-fastest time (4.17).
  • Barnes posted a time of 4.44 in the 40, while Henry clocked a 4.53 and had a 36-inch vertical leap.
  • Jeremy Navarre was the strongest, with 36 reps on the bench press. Defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi had 34.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 11, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

With Miami kicking off spring practice on Feb. 24, it's never too early to start thinking about spring football in the ACC. There are plenty of story lines heading into the 2009 season -- like backup quarterbacks and new coordinators.

Here are a few things to watch for each team in the ACC this spring:


Spring practice starts:
March 17
Spring game: April 25

What to watch

  • Replacing 325-pound defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace will be a large challenge -- literally. Damik Scafe could be a starter, but beyond him it's anybody's guess.
  • Quarterback Dominique Davis only has three games of experience over everyone else, so it's definitely not a given that it's his job to lose. Davis was thrown into the fire at the end of 2008, but former coach Jeff Jagodzinski and former offensive coordinator Steve Logan liked freshman Justin Tuggle, who redshirted this past season. Whether the new staff is as high on Tuggle remains to be seen.
  • Including former defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, who was promoted to head coach, the Eagles will have six coaches in new positions this spring. With two new coordinators, a new offensive line coach, tight ends coach and a linebackers coach, this spring will be a chance for a few introductions.

(Read full post)


Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Coastal Division, Atlantic Division, Miami Hurricanes, Jermaine Thomas, Greg Little, Greg Boone, Eron Riley, Paul Johnson, Damian Thornton, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida State Seminoles, Toddrick Verdell, Vince Williams, Barquell RIvers, Miami Hurricanes, Justin Tuggle, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Kyle Parker, Brandon tate, Frank Beamer, Trimane Goddard, Aaron Clark, Logan Thomas, Chris turner, Myron Rolle, Cullen Harper, Willy Korn, Demetrius Hartsfield, Brad Lambert, Cannon Smith, Jamarr Robinson, Robert Marve, Mike Glennon, Nigel Carr, Tyrod Taylor, Adrian Moten, David Cutcliffe, Stephen St. John, Butch Davis, Hakeem Nicks, Tavares Pressley, Duke Blue Devils, Lamar Young, Chris DeGeare, Derek Nicholson, Kevin Harrison, Rashad Carmichael, T.J. Barnes, Josh Portis, Sean Renfree, Carlton Jones, Brett Warren, Nigel Bradham, Darren CHilds, Andre Brown, Edwin Williams, Jeremy Gray, Purnell Sturdivant, Dominique Davis, Johnny Williams, MIchael Tauiliili, Brandon Flowers, Jacory Harris, Anthony Allen, Trent Mackey, Virginia Tech Hokies, Cody Grimm, Gregg Brandon, Derrick Morgan, Vincent Rey, Virginia Cavaliers, Toney Baker, Antone Smith, spring primer 0902, Tyler Grisham, Clint Sintim, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Victor 'Macho' Harris, Jonathan Dwyer, Maryland Terrapins, Coastal Division, Clem Johnson, Atlantic Division, Antonio Appleby, Jacoby Ford, Jameel Sewell, Mark Paschal, Frank Spaziani, Tony Carter, Quan Sturdivant, Damik Scafe, Steve Logan, Bruce Johnson, Antone Exum, Taylor Cook, Boston College Eagles, Cam Martin, Brooks Foster, Dabo Swinney, Austin Kelly, Darius McClure, Michael Wade, Mark Richt, Aaron Kelly, Jeff Jagodzinski, Thaddeus Lewis, Clemson Tigers, Anthony Reddick, Aaron Curry, C.J. Spiller, Alphonso Smith, Jon Copper, Stephan Virgil, Tyler Bowen, Ben Anderson, Alex Wujciak, Zack Asack, Justin Lewis, D\'Vontrey Richardson, Da\'Norris Searcy

Pre-spring ACC power rankings

February, 9, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

With the NFL departures announced, and signing day officially over, it's time for a re-ranking heading into spring football. Keep in mind things change during spring practice -- some players get hurt, some win position battles, but here's the first early peek at how the ACC might fare in 2009:

1. Virginia Tech -- The ACC and Orange Bowl champs return 16 starters, and there are high expectations for an offensive backfield that will contain shifty quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and tailbacks Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. If the defense maintains its tradition without Victor "Macho" Harris, the Hokies could be a top 10 team.

2. Florida State -- The defense took some hits -- the most notable being the loss of defensive end Everette Brown -- but should have enough experience to compensate for it. The offensive line should be one of the best in the conference and give returning quarterback Christian Ponder and tailback Jermaine Thomas plenty of help. The question is the depth at receiver after the loss of Preston Parker, Greg Carr, and probably Corey Surrency. FSU also loses Lou Groza award winner Graham Gano.

3. Georgia Tech -- Overall, this team will be experienced and deeper -- it will return every starter at the skill positions -- but the Yellow Jackets must reload on the defensive front and improve on the offensive line. There will be three new starters on the defensive line, and Tech lost two senior starters on the offensive line. There are 25 players on the roster, though, who have at least one career start.

4. Miami -- Coach Randy Shannon brought in yet another outstanding recruiting class, and playing so many true freshmen in 2008 should help this season. There shouldn't be any quarterback drama this season, and Jacory Harris should only improve under first-year coordinator Mark Whipple. Defensive coordinator is still a question mark, though.

5. North Carolina -- Never count out a Butch Davis-coached team, but the Tar Heels will be a question mark until a new batch of receivers proves otherwise. Brooks Foster, Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks accounted for 114 receptions in 2008, and all three have left for the NFL. Safety Trimane Goddard is arguably the biggest loss on defense.

6. NC State -- If the Pack stay healthy -- something they haven't been able to do for the past two seasons -- NC State could be the sleeper in the Atlantic Division. It has to replace tight end Anthony Hill and running back Andre Brown, though, and 2007 leading receiver Donald Bowens will miss spring practice because of knee surgery.

7. Clemson -- Speedy playmakers C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford are back, but they'll be under the direction of a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. Let's see how the Tigers do without any expectations for a change.

8. Maryland -- The Terps graduated 30 seniors and junior receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey left for the NFL. One of the biggest question marks is how they'll fare up front after the graduation of three starting offensive linemen, including All-ACC center Edwin Williams. The defense, which loses four starters from its front seven, will be led by first-year coordinator Don Brown.

9. Wake Forest -- The good news for the Deacs is the offensive line should better, and they return veteran quarterback Riley Skinner. The bad news is they'll sorely miss some of the best defensive players the program has had in recent years, along with kicker Sam Swank.

10. Virginia -- If quarterback Jameel Sewell makes a smooth transition back into the lineup and quickly learns the new offense, the Cavs could surprise some people this season. They'll have to replace all three starters at linebacker, though, and will miss starting receivers Kevin Ogletree and Maurice Covington, as well as leading rusher Cedric Peerman.

11. Boston College -- Consider this a rebuilding year for the Eagles. The loss of defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace will have an effect up front. With a new staff, a small recruiting class and a young starting quarterback, the only direction for BC to head is up.

12. Duke -- The Blue Devils have arguably one of the league's top quarterbacks in Thaddeus Lewis, but he won't have Eron Riley to throw it to this season. Duke also loses ACC-leading tackler Michael Tauiliili at linebacker. Still, the Blue Devils should take another step forward in their second season under David Cutcliffe.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 3, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

The official invitation list for the NFL scouting combine is out, and there are plenty of ACC players who will participate in the four-day job interview in Indianapolis from Feb. 18-24. Just because a player didn't make the list doesn't mean he won't be drafted, but here are the ACC players by school who were invited to the combine:


Kevin Akins, cornerback/linebacker

Ron Brace, defensive tackle

B.J. Raji, defensive tackle


Chris Clemons, safety

James Davis, running back

Michael Hamlin, safety

Cullen Harper, quarterback

Aaron Kelly, receiver

Dorell Scott, defensive tackle


Everette Brown, defensive end

Graham Gano, punter/placekicker


Andrew Gardner, offensive tackle

Michael Johnson, defensive end

Darryl Richard, defensive tackle

Vance Walker, defensive tackle

Jahi Word-Daniels, cornerback


Kevin Barnes, cornerback

Moise Fokou, outside linebacker

Dan Gronkowski, tight end

Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver

Jaimie Thomas, offensive guard

Edwin Williams, center


Bruce Johnson, cornerback


Brooks Foster, wide receiver

Hakeem Nicks, wide recevier

Richard Quinn, tight end

Garrett Reynolds, offensive tackle

Brandon Tate, wide receiver


Andre Brown, running back

Anthony Hill, tight end


Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle

Kevin Ogletree, wide receiver

Cedric Peerman, tailback

John Phillips, tight end

Clint Sintim, linebacker


Victor "Macho" Harris, cornerback

Orion Martin, defensive end


Stanley Arnoux, linebacker

Aaron Curry, linebacker

Alphonso Smith, cornerback

Sam Swank, punter/placekicker

Chip Vaughn, safety

Weekend rewind: Senior Bowl

January, 26, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

For those of you who missed the Under Armour Senior Bowl this past weekend, here's a quick look at how some of the ACC players fared:

Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman: Led the North team with five carries for 34 yards, and had a fumble

NC State running back Andre Brown: 10 carries, 31 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run; caught two passes for 41 yards. Led South team with 72 all-purpose yards.

Clemson running back James Davis: Nine carries, 32 yards

Florida State running back Antone Smith: Two carries, 7 yards

Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper: Completed 2 of 5 passes for 44 yards (one was 32 yards long) and made one tackle

FSU receiver Greg Carr: Caught one pass for 9 yards

Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim: Five unassisted, one assisted tackle (fourth on the North team). Had one tackle for a loss of 2 yards.

Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace: Two assisted tackles

Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji: One unassisted tackle

Clemson safety Michael Hamlin: Four unassisted, one assisted tackle

Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn: Two tackles

Virginia Tech corner back Victor "Macho" Harris: One punt return for 10 yards

Peerman, Brown, Raji, Harris, Vaughn and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith were all starters.

Best of luck to these guys and the other ACC seniors in this year's class, whether their next step is on the field or off.

Boston College recruiting needs

January, 14, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

As we get closer to signing day, recruiting moves to the forefront of the discussions, and this week I'll be breaking down each school's recruiting needs. Today we'll hit the Atlantic Division, tomorrow the Coastal.

Let's kick it off with BC:

This staff has arguably one of the toughest challenges in the league because of the timing of the coaching change, and its recruiting needs appear to be where games are won and lost -- up front.

The biggest losses on defense will be defensive tackles Ron Brace and B.J. Raji, and filling their gaping 324-pound holes won't be easy. The defensive line should be a priority for this recruiting class, as Brace's backup, Jerry Willette, is also a senior, and next season's starting defensive line will have two senior defensive ends.

The good news is the Eagles don't have to replace the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Mark Herzlich, but they will lose starter Robert Francois to graduation, and both Herzlich and starting middle linebacker Mike McLaughlin will be seniors next season. BC will also have to replace two of its four starters in the secondary.

The Eagles have a reputation for developing offensive linemen, and this season's unit was one of the best. They'll lose starting left guard Clif Ramsey, and center Matt Tennant will be a senior, as will two backups, so the staff needs to build some depth there.

Tight end Ryan Purvis and receiver Brandon Robinson are also graduating, and starting receiver Rich Gunnell and his backup, Justin Jarvis, will both be seniors, so the Eagles also need to load up on some receivers.

ACC will have 18 in Under Armour Senior Bowl

January, 12, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

I just received the final list of ACC players who will participate in the Under Armour Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala., and the newest release includes four players from Virginia. It's only fitting that more than half of these bowl-bound players are defenders.

Here is the final list:

Boston College: defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace

Clemson: Cullen Harper, quarterback; James Davis, running back; Michael Hamlin, safety

Georgia Tech: Vance Walker, defensive tackle; Michael Johnson, defensive end

North Carolina: Brooks Foster, wide receiver

North Carolina St.: Anthony Hill, tight end; Andre Brown, running back

Virginia: Eugene Monroe, left tackle; Cedric Peerman, running back; John Phillips, tight end; Clint Sintim, linebacker

Virginia Tech: Macho Harris, corner

Wake Forest: Aaron Curry, linebacker; Alphonso Smith, cornerback; Chip Vaughn, safety